Paul has been a passionate player, recorder, and listener of guitar music for over 35 years. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida, USA.
As both a musician and tutor for many years, I know that for many people can find buying their first guitar intimidating. As a beginner, you are faced with a bewildering array of choices and advice, and can easily feel like you just don't know where to start.
Although guitars can look pretty similar to an inexperienced eye, they all have differing qualities and traits, such as how easy they are to play, how expensive they are, and the tone and the quality of the sound that they produce, as well as other features such as their color and size.
The process of choosing and buying can easily feel overwhelming if you are not careful, but generally speaking, most learners need an instrument that is relatively easy to play, have a great sound, but also be relatively inexpensive.
I personally would recommend against selecting an instrument on the basis of its color, or focusing too much on its overall appearance. For sure, there are some very beautiful guitars out there, but these instruments are primarily for making music, as far as I am concerned, and therefore how they play and sound are the most important features, especially for a learner.
Top 3 Beginner Acoustic Guitars
Below are my three 3 selections:
- The Epiphone DR-100: Reliable Quality for an Excellent Price
- The Yamaha FG800: Rich Overtones and Kind on the Fingers
- Seagull S6 Original: Gorgeoust Tone and Great Craftmanship
I go into more details and give my reasons for my choices below.
The Epiphone DR-100: Reliable Quality for an Excellent Price
Epiphone are an American company with a long and proud history of guitar making. They were founded by Anastasios Stathopoulos way back in 1873 and were Gibson's main rival up until the 1960's. I've owned and played many of their guitars over the years and have always found their instruments to be well built and excellent value for money.
The Epiphone DR-100 has a classic dreadnought shape and is a seasoned bestseller. It has a select spruce top, mahogany neck, back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard. Frankly, you can't go wrong with this instrument, especially when you consider that it's positioned at the more affordable end of the price scale, making it ideal for learners.
My Epiphone DR-100 Pros
- Very playable, which is essential for a beginner.
- The solid spruce top gives this guitar a rich resonance and tone.
- Excellent value for money. A great guitar for the price.
- Well built using quality wood. This guitar will last forever if you look after it.
- It punches above its weight for sound quality, especially when you consider it's an affordable guitar.
- Versatile, it suits most styles, including slide guitar.
- As a dreadnought, this guitar is relatively large, meaning more fret space and less opportunity for a learner to mess up!
- I seriously struggle to find any downsides with this guitar. There are better, more expensive guitars, but the DR-100 is difficult to beat within its price range.
The Yamaha FG800: Rich Overtones and Kind on the Fingers
I have been a huge fan of Yamaha for many years. They make some excellent guitars for all skill levels and various tastes, and make some of the best instruments for beginners. So when my daughter was learning to play the guitar, I bought her a FG800 Acoustic. It's a relatively inexpensive instrument and great for beginners.
My daughter loves to play this guitar, and I love to play it too, when she lets me! The solid sitka spruce top and rosewood fingerboard both contribute towards this instrument looking, sounding and feeling great, it's simply a joy to play.
My Yamaha FG800 Pros
- An affordable option, plus you can often pick up some great bundle deals that include a case and other excellent stuff.
- It holds its tune well, which is good generally, but particularly for beginners.
- I love the solid solid spruce top which contributes to the great tone. It really sounds amazing for a guitar in this price range.
- The small body works well for smaller or younger players.
My Yamaha FG800 Cons
- The action was a little on the high side in my opinion. I ended up getting it lowered from my daughter.
Seagull S6 Original: Gorgeoust Tone and Great Craftmanship
Compared to the other two guitars in my list, the Seagull S6 Original may appear to be a little on the expensive side, but it does offer fantastic value for money. You will struggle to find another guitar for under $500 that's made with the same level of craftsmanship. It really is worth every single penny you pay for it, in my opinion.
A dreadnought by nature, the Seagull S6 has an understated beauty about it. It feels sturdy and durable, but delivers a sweet, rich, warm tone. A beginner may start with this guitar, but will love it for life.
My Seagull S6 Pros
- Thanks in part to the wild cherry sides and back, this guitar delivers a sound to die for. If that doesn't inspire you to learn to play, I don't know what will.
- Holds its tune very well.
- It's a great guitar for fingerpicking.
- The rosewood fretboard is kind on the fingers.
- This guitar will last you well beyond your learner period.
My Seagull S6 Cons
- I ended up tweaking the set-up a little by changing the string saddle.
6 Best Acoustic Guitar Accessories
As well as your guitar, you might also want to seriously consider investing in:
- A strap - This will provide you with the option of playing your guitar while standing up, as well as seated.
- A tuner - Tuning the guitar and then keeping it in tune can be very challenging for beginners. An electronic tuner can be a very useful aid. I also know from experience that tuning up by ear in a noisy place can be virtually impossible, an electronic tuner gets around this issue.
- A pickup - This makes electronically amplifying your instrument relatively easy, enabling you to play larger and noisier venues. It also means that you can record your guitar without the need for a microphone. A pickup also facilitates the use of effects pedals.
- A case or bag - These will protect your instrument from potential damage such as scratches and impacts when you are in transit, and can also make transportation much easier. There is typically room too for things like picks, spare strings, tuning devices, and straps. A case is also a great place to keep your guitar when it's not in use.
- A capo - This device is fastened to the neck of the guitar and is a great tool for changing key without altering the chord shapes. Changing key is very useful if you are playing with other instruments, or backing a singer.
- A book for beginners - Most acoustic players start out by learning to make chord shapes and strumming the strings (rather than finger-picking them). A book that shows diagrams of the most common and also easiest chords can be invaluable for a learner. There are many great publications out there, but I would personally recommend The First 100 Chords for Guitar: How to Learn and Play Guitar Chords: The Complete Beginner Guitar Method for learners, which is available for free at the time of writing, when it's downloaded in a Kindle format.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: What's the best acoustic guitar for a complete beginner?
Answer: I would recommend something from the Takamine G Series. They are reliable and easy to play guitars that offer excellent value for money. They're great for beginners in my experience. My personal favorite is the GD30 dreadnought. It's at the more affordable end of the price range, but it delivers a rich and resonant tone, thanks in part to the solid spruce top. The cutaway body enables me to reach the high frets, which I like when I'm plucking melodies and soloing, rather than strumming chords. It's a solid guitar, which I'm convinced will outlive me.
© 2012 Paul Goodman
New Guestbook Comments
fenderstrat928 on November 11, 2012:
Great lense and suggestions for beginner guitarists!
efriedman on March 20, 2012:
Nice to see suggestions for entry level players
sousababy on March 09, 2012:
Music enriches our lives so much - I feel it's essential to try out one instrument, at least. I played piano, however I always felt a guitar would've been better since I could simply carry it with me to a beach party or get together.
WriterJanis2 on February 26, 2012:
My son plays guitar. I'll have to show him this.
chrisssy on February 24, 2012:
Picked up a guitar once, failed miserably. Great lens, maybe i'll try again
buttonhead lm on February 24, 2012:
Great list! These are fairly inexpensive too. Thanks!
Jethro from Philippines on February 16, 2012:
I love guitars but I'm not playing my guitar in our house a lot. Instead my father plays with it. Anyway, I like your selection of guitars. Keep it up! :)